Growing up in Colorado, you kept track of your 15-and-a-half birthday. That was the first day you could take the written exam to get your driver’s permit. You wanted to get it as soon as possible, because you couldn’t take your behind-the-wheel test for your license until you’d held your permit for six months.
Over the weekend, I was talking with a fifteen-year-old neighbor. She had no immediate plans to get her permit, or her license. She felt no urgency whatsoever. She just didn’t see the need.
I realized then that I’d made the classic mistake of confusing the product with the solution.
Growing up, there were obvious benefits getting my license:
- Independence. I didn’t need to rely on my parents to go where I wanted, or the whims of the RTD bus schedule.
- Income. I could get a job. I did freelance design work, and often needed to haul things to and from printers.
- Identity. As someone who could drive a car, I wasn’t a kid. I was very nearly an adult. And as a practical matter, a driver’s license felt like legitimate proof that I was somebody in a way my school ID didn’t.
- Inclusion. I wanted to hang out with my friends.
- Isolation. I could get out of the house, and play my music in the car.
This young woman could easily get the same benefits without driving.
Because of Uber and Lyft, she could get anywhere she needed to go, including her job. Because very few of her friends drove, having a car wasn’t a key part of her social identity. Besides, she saw them online all the time, and her Instagram name was more important than a plastic card with a photo she couldn’t even choose and filter.
And with headphones, she had the ability isolate herself anywhere.
Will she learn to drive? Probably, someday. Unless self-driving cars become viable. Unless she keeps living in a big city. Unless the subway they’re building below her house makes it even less important.
Even if she learns to drive, it won’t be the classic trope of a teen driver and her stressed-out parent. That time has passed. If you have a scene like that in your spec script, take it out.
I wonder how soon driving a car will be like riding a horse: something you only do in certain circumstances, and only if the mood strikes you.